Monday, December 29, 2014

"The President Has Been Shot!" The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson

"The President Has Been Shot!": The Assassination of John F. Kennedy by James L. Swanson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've studied history, but never liked reading about JFK's assassination. The modern day Bush family reminds me so much of the Kennedy family--too much money and too many legacies.

As I was reading this, I was SHOCKED about how the Dallas police and the Secret Service handled things. Absolutely mortified. Procedures surely were in place, right? Then why weren't they followed? Ugh....

The second half of the book reads like a mystery novel--I was fascinated. The source material at the end is way too much information for me, but great for students.

This would be 4 stars if it weren't for the first 45 pages. I understand that young people don't know much about JFK's presidency, but I'm wondering if that material could have been worked into the fascinating assassination section?

This is a 2014 YALSA's Award for Excellence in Nonfiction finalist and I see why!

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The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of WingsThe Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Okay, so people are raving about this book. I loved The Secret Life of Bees so I had high expectations as I approached this one.

But, wow, I really felt like I was reading a book that was supposed to teach me a lesson. Repeatedly.

The book consists of two inter-connected story-lines. Sarah Grimke is one of many children in Charleston, South Carolina, and she is an oddball. She wants to become educated and would love to follow in her father's steps and become a judge. But she's female. She also is against slavery, even though that's how her family made their fortune. At the age of 11, she receives a slave for her birthday present, Hetty.

Hetty, known as Handful to other slaves, is headstrong and smart, and then Sarah teaches her to read. Of course, she yearns to escape.

I feel like I had read this book before. It was nothing new to me--just another book about the relationship between a white woman and her slave. I think this is the problem when I've read a lot of books--I read something that non-readers love and I don't see the attraction. I found myself rolling my eyes at some of the language, especially the paragraphs at the end of chapters when everything was supposed to be dramatic.

"I was relieved and terrified in the same moment. I studied the compact defiance that made up so much of what she was" (353).

"I squatted down and stared her in the eyes. 'Don't you spare me. I've seen my share. I know what the world is'" (271).

The chapters are many and short and all of them end with some important quotation from one of the characters. It's almost like reading a Dickens serial that was created for the masses to read in short chunks.

I did read some adult book club books that I enjoyed this year: My Name Is Resolute, Bellweather Rhapsody, and The Word Exchange.

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Like No OtherLike No Other by Una LaMarche
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sweet little forbidden romance read about two teenagers in New York City (of course). Jaxon is a nerdy, smart African-American boy who is usually too tongue-tied to speak to girls. Devorah is a Hasidic Jew and I loved leading more about that conservative religion. She and Jaxon end up stuck in an elevator and fall in love. The two meet secretly until her family finds out and all hell breaks loose.

Love how the book ended, although I know some other readers would disagree with me. Go Devorah! Not sure if this book represents a way to make her sect more lenient or not? Could the ending of this book really happen?

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Thursday, December 25, 2014

The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondhei by E.K. Johnston

The Story of Owen (Dragon Slayer of Trondheim, #1)The Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Amazing world--the dragons are amongst us! Siobhan was just a budding musician in Ontario when the nephew of a famous dragon slayer moved into town. Next thing you know, she is his bard and the two are determined to save their small town from a recent infestation of dragons.

I have to admit that it took me awhile to read the last half of the book--and that's what keeps it from being 4 stars. Love the world and the characters, but I guess I wanted more action! I loved the Canadian setting and how the name-dropping occurred--everyone from Lady Gaga to famous authors in English class.

This is definitely an author who is one to watch!

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel LaFrance

War Brothers: The Graphic NovelWar Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this graphic novel reads like a memoir, it is based off interviews that the author completed for her book by the same title.

The child solider problem is real and Americans need to realize what's going on. So for that, I'm glad I read this book. It's graphic, but tweens and teens need to understand how child soldiers happen and that there are grey lines between and good and bad in the world. We all have a breaking point.

I could help but think of the Alex Award winning title A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier--the two books could be paired in a World History class very easily.

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Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, a Girl in PiecesGabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks, Morris Award peeps, for putting this debut novel as a finalist. Because it rocks! And, honestly, the cover kinda scares me so I wouldn't have picked it up without it being on a list.

Gabi is a senior and her life is complicated. Just like real life. Her gay best friend comes out, her other best friend gets pregnant, her meth head dad is swirling down the deep end. And she's never been kissed. And she's fat. And she's becoming a poet.

This has Printz Honor potential. A lot of unique voice here in Gabi--she's a girl I want to know. Her poetry is moving and her ups and downs are so realistic. Her struggles with Catholicism, race, self esteem, morals, etc. are so spot on. Love how the author tackles sex in this book, too. I giggled through the live birth scene.

It's rare that an author can combine poetry and pretty words with realistic, contemporary characters. Conservatives won't like this book. But, whoa, teens will eat this up.

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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon. Written by Matt Fraction. Illustrated by David Aja, Javier Pulido and Alan Davis.

Hawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a WeaponHawkeye, Vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

And I don't usually read comic books, but this was actually darn good! I like Hawkeye from the Avengers SO MUCH MORE after reading this. He's cool. And hot.

If you haven't read comics in awhile, take a look at this one.

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Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

Nothing Can Possibly Go WrongNothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Charlie and Nate are great friends, even though one is captain of the basketball team and one is president of the robotics club. When it's decided that the class president will be able to direct class funds to buy new cheer uniforms or fund a trip to the National Robotics competition, both end up running for class president. The election gets dirty as cheerleaders bully nerds and embarrassing pictures are unearthed and posted at school. Eventually, the two groups must work together to win a prize at a robot wars meet since the prize money could fund both groups.

Nothing heavy here, just a light high school read, although one of the characters is dealing with his parents' divorce.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks. Colors by Cris Peter.

The Adventures of Superhero GirlThe Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Superhero + new adult + reality = awesomeness.

I giggled at several parts, smiled at some, and related to many.

A graphic novel for all ages--Superhero Girl is a college-aged girl just trying to find her arch-nemesis. And trying to come out from under her superhero brother's shadow. And trying to find a boyfriend. And trying to afford the rent. The author of Friends with Boys and Zombies Calling has another winner here.

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Monday, December 15, 2014

Strobe Edge, Volume 1 by Io Sakisaka

Strobe Edge, Vol. 1 (Strobe Edge, #1)Strobe Edge, Vol. 1 by Io Sakisaka
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This was listed on the 2014 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens list by YALSA, the Young Adult Library Services Association.

So I'll say it's okay. It's popular. But I have issues with it. Ninako is ignorant when it comes to love. At first, she thinks she may be in love with her friend Daiki because "he's a nice guy, and it's fun being around him." But then the hot guy of the school, Ren, talks to her after he bumps into her on the train after school. And, from then, on, it's all about her catching his eye and realizing that she's in looo---ve.

So evidently I'm not a fan of manga chick lit, but I know there is a HUGE fanbase of this stuff all over the world. But at least I'm trying to read things out of my comfort zone!

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Sunday, December 14, 2014

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

Orphan TrainOrphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, this is the perfect book for middle-aged female book clubs, but it's not the type of book I like to read. I felt like I was reading a Hallmark movie.

First, the obligatory goth teenager who befriends the orphan because they have so much in common made me sigh. And, of course, she ends up un-gothing herself once she has someone to love. Sigh.

Now the chapters about Vivian and the orphan train were great--I love historical fiction. Take out the modern day parallelism and I would have enjoyed this novel more.

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Saturday, December 13, 2014

Popular: a Memoir Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya van Wagenen

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern GeekPopular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow...this author has talent. Fifteen years old and she writes like this? She is one to watch!

Maya Van Wagenen was in junior high when she decided that she wanted to popular. On a whim, she settled down with an old copy of Betty Cornell's Teen-Age Popularity Guide from the 1950's and maps out her school year--hair in October, good grooming in February, clothes in January. Every month got a chapter and Maya settled in to improve herself. She started walking taller, wearing powder on her face, and pearls around her neck. She wore more skirts, flats, and brushed her hair a hundred times a night. And what did she learn? She learned that being popular is all about taking risks and saying hi to strangers. It's about getting the nerve to sit with other people at lunch. It's about realizing that junior high students admire kids like Maya who have the nerve to do things they don't.

Love this story--it's readable, funny, and her family is wonderful, normal, and supportive. It's also up for the Morris award this year--I think it's a strong contender. Love that Dutton/Penguin snatched this author up.

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Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Just One Day (Just One Day, #1)Just One Day by Gayle Forman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

THIS is the book I needed as a teenager. Because it sure is the book I need as a thirty-something woman!

Some of you may know that I travel by myself quite a bit. This year I went to Scotland. Last year I went to Germany and Slovenia. These trips were big for me--it's a huge decision to travel as a single woman. And I really connected with Allyson as she steps off the train in Paris. I've taken so many wrong directions, followed the wrong steps (even with wifi and Google Maps on my iPod Touch), and taken trains and buses in wrong directions. But there is an empowerment to traveling alone and being independent. Honestly, I can do almost anything because I can travel by myself. And survive. And have fun.

But I have to admit that I was looking for my Willem, too. I've seen too many books and too many movies where the woman meets someone on the plane or at the bar or at the cafe and falls in love. Unfortunately, that didn't happen on the two trips I went on. But I looked. And I tried. And I did meet a cute German who looked just like Jon Bon Jovi. And another man who was so nervous about talking to an American librarian that he had to introduce me to all his friends so he knew I was real. That was fun.

Go to Europe, girls. Travel by yourself. Get some balls, as someone says to Allyson in this book. No regrets.

Allyson has a boring tour-guided trip to Europe, but things pick up when she decides to travel to Paris for one day with a man she just met. They fall in love (for one day) and it's magical. But she wakes up and he isn't there. She makes it back to London on her own and lives a year haunted--why did he leave? Was she just a one night stand? Finally she decides to take the bull by the horns--learn French, work and save money to travel to Paris on her own, and change from her pre-med major that she hates. She travels and hunts him down. But sometimes things don't work out perfectly. But, oh, love is good.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don't write prettily enough to give this book justice. First, the magical realism is beautiful--heart wrenching and the world in this novel is better than in any fantasy novel. Magic lives in that house at the end of the lane in Seattle. Magic. And I want to live near it.

I didn't cry, but I really felt like putting my head on my desk and weeping when the principal does. There are moments of pure horribleness and goodness and everything in between.

Teen appeal? I know a few I could give this to. The ones who aren't afraid of being called weird. This book is for them.

I hope it will see some Printz love in January 2015. At least I'd be pushing for it if I were on the committee this year! Voice, structure, atmosphere, poetry in prose....

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Monday, December 8, 2014

If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

If You Could Be MineIf You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book more, but it fell short. First, yay for the Iranian setting! And the main character is a teenage girl who is in love with her best friend. They spend most of their time kissing, even though homosexuality is illegal in Iran. When Nasrin's marriage is arranged to a handsome young doctor, Sahar must try to figure out how the two of them can be together--perhaps Sahar needs to become a man?

Turns out that becoming a transexual is okay in Iran--who knew? But Sahar never really thinks things through, which I didn't get. She's so concerned about trying to figure out how to "keep" Nasrin to herself, that she doesn't make much sense. If Sahar really is the top of her class at school, I think she would use her brain a bit more.

I never felt attached to Sahar and I really wondered why she liked shallow Nasrin. Nasrin seemed to be using her constantly--just a girl to kiss, but not really a girl to love. Their love didn't seem real, and that is really disappointing in a teenage romance, but at least it makes the ending more realistic!

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Friday, December 5, 2014

Boy21 by Matthew Quick

Boy21Boy21 by Matthew Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This wasn't what I expected. It wasn't like Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock or The Silver Linings Playbook, but Quick does know how to pack an emotional punch!

First of all, I had no idea that the Irish mob was alive and well in Philadelphia. I guess I only see that stuff on TV, but, if things like what happens in this book happen in real life, then, whoa.

Finley loves basketball. He even breaks up with his star basketball player girlfriend before the season so they both can concentrate on ball. When his coach asks him to befriend a new guy, Finley isn't sure what to think. Finley has enough problems being the only white guy on the basketball team. Now some crazy kid moves into town and Finley is supposed to help him?

Turns out Coach was right. This is one of the best male friendship stories I've read in awhile.

The ending was a bit unbelievable, but, hey, I'll take it.

Give this to teens who want to read about basketball, friendship, romance from the guy's point-of-view, gangs, and escaping.

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Thursday, December 4, 2014

Tomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince

Tomboy: A Graphic MemoirTomboy: A Graphic Memoir by Liz Prince
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Totally cool graphic novel about a young girl coming to terms with wanting to dress like a boy.

Discusses gender issues and stereotypes in a good way and made me wonder again about the phrase "like a girl."

Here's to hoping I'm raising my daughter to be proud of the person she is, even if she wants to wear Under Armour and ponytails all the time.

Recommended for high schools and up, unless your junior high is cool and doesn't care about cuss words.

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The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb

The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious NaziThe Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World's Most Notorious Nazi by Neal Bascomb
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a fascinating account of the hunt for Adolf Eichmann, the Nazi leader of the Jewish extermination during World War II. I had never heard of this hunt, or how some countries harbored Nazis after the war. I didn't know that Eichmann was the first and only man ever sentenced to death in Israel.

Eichmann took pride in doing his job well--one of his last sentences was "I had to obey the laws of war and my flag." Ugh. I kept thinking of the two soldiers who followed the Code Red order in A Few Good Men--this is a few million times worse. So sad that one of his sons is still a neo-Nazi in Argentina.

Includes photographs, illustrations, author's note, bibliography, notes, and index. Good non-fiction read for junior high and up.

Pretty cool that the book was printed and bound by RR Donnelley in Crawfordsville, Indiana, too.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

Reconstructing AmeliaReconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate is a successful lawyer, and her day is interrupted when she is asked to pick up her daughter from school because of a suspension. But when Kate arrives at the prestigious private school, Amelia is dead. While it first is labeled a suicide, Amelia's death soon is under investigation. Scores of Facebook statuses, text messages, and emails are found by Kate, and secrets are uncovered.

This book is a breeze--I read it in two sittings because I was intrigued. Who was Amelia? How well do mothers really know their daughters? And how well do daughters know their mothers?

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Monday, December 1, 2014

Serenity: Leaves on the Wind #4

Serenity: Leaves on the WindSerenity: Leaves on the Wind by Zack Whedon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahhh, I didn't know these graphic novels existed! They fill in the blanks after the Firefly TV series and Serenity movie are over.

Zoe is dealing with the death of her hubbie in the best possible way. Romance is blooming ALL over the ship, and the Alliance is still after Malcolm and all of his crew.

I find it odd how Kaylee and Inara look alike--I was a little freaked during the some of the scenes because I couldn't figure out which character it was.

But, hey, read these if you're a Firefly fan and find out the rest of the story.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Curtsies & Conspiracies, Book the Second of Finishing School by Gail Carriger

Curtsies & Conspiracies (Finishing School, #2)Curtsies & Conspiracies by Gail Carriger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The love wasn't as instant with this one as it was with Etiquette & Espionage, but it's still enjoyable. Sophronia is still attending finishing school and learning how to be dastardly, yet proper. There are dandy vampires, strong werewolves, attractive working class boys, Duke's sons, and everything else in this steampunk series. Check out the first book in the series to see if it's your thing! Also, don't forget to try Soulless--my favorite!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth Laban

The Tragedy PaperThe Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I felt like I was reading another version of Thirteen Reasons Why, and that wasn't a good thing. Duncan returns to his senior year at a boarding school to find that a student from last year, Tim, has left him a gift of CDs. The CDs are his own story, and it's an interesting one. Tim is an albino who transferred to the school for his last semester, and his relationship with a popular girl on campus is one that Duncan wants to hear about.

Unfortunately, I wanted Tim's story, told from his perspective. I didn't think Duncan's viewpoint added anything to the plot at all, especially when I felt like I was getting the definition of tragedy shoved down my throat during the classroom scenes.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang

In Real LifeIn Real Life by Cory Doctorow
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Love the gaming part of this graphic novel and how Anda gets sucked into the online world. Love the girl power MMO scenes and how Anda is adopted into a guild.

But wasn't too thrilled with the China part. You'll see what I mean if you read it.

I'm just not a fan of feeling like I'm being force-fed.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour BookstoreMr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I can't do it. I can't finish this book. I've tried the audio. I've tried the print years later. But it's just not for me. I don't like musty bookstores. I feel like this is another book made popular because librarians like to read about books and other libraries.

I know this is an Alex winner, but this is would I never would have voted for if I were on the committee. It just feels like a book librarians would love instead of high school students.

I do, however, love the glow-in-the-dark cover.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Isla and the Happily Ever After (Anna and the French Kiss, #3)Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was so much romance that it almost made me sick, but isn't that what teen love does to adults? :) Isla has been crushing on the cute artsy boy at her Parisian boarding school for years, but it takes teeth pulling and anesthesia for her to talk to him for the first time. Give it a few months and their paths finally meet again, and, of course, it's pure and instant real love.

Wow, I'm such a cynic.

But it's a great romance. Best part? The author's dedication in the back of the book. She wrote the three romances with her husband in mind:

"Finally, thank you to Jarrod Perkins. I'm crying now just because I typed your name. I love you more than anyone. Ever. Times a hundred million billion. Etienne, Cricket, and Josh--they were all you, but none of them came even close to you. You are my best friend. You are my true love. You are my happily ever after,"

Screw Josh in this book--I want my own Jarrod Perkins.

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Friday, November 7, 2014

How to Build a Girl by Caitlyn Morgan

How to Build a GirlHow to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Raunchy and hilarious, this isn't a read for those of you who don't like cuss words or masturbation scenes. However, for those of you who don't mind a little debauchery, read this!

It's the early 1990's and Johanna is trying to make it in the world, despite her family trying to pull her down. Her dad is on disability and proud of it, and her mom keeps popping out kids. Johanna really wants to be a writer, and decides that she's going to be a music reviewer, even if she has to spend all her money on renting records from the public library. (On a side note, what libraries charge for that????)

She makes it big. She's a great writer. Her reviews burn and sizzle and soon she's getting in free to the biggest gigs (Smashing Pumpkins!!!) in town, and hanging out backstage with the band. She's only 16, folks, but the booze, drugs, and sex flow. Is she making it big? Or is she falling down the rabbit hole?

This is a hilarious coming-of-age story about a not-skinny girl trying to fake it until she makes it. And raunchy--consider yourself warned!

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick

Forgive Me, Leonard PeacockForgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Awww, man, kids like this sadden me. Leonard Peacock is living his last day. His backpack has his grandfather's gun in it and he plans on killing Asher Beal and then committing suicide. But, first, he has some presents to give out to his closest acquaintances. Poor Leonard has an absent mother, who chooses her French boyfriend and career over living with her son. What the heck, mom? Raise your kid! Leonard is brilliant and weird and eventually you find out why he's questioning his sanity. Good read along with The Catcher in the Rye and It's Kind of a Funny Story.

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Friday, October 31, 2014

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party

Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner PartyNathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved this! Why is it that we are fascinated with the Donner party? The desperation? The loneliness? Whatever the reason, this graphic novel was a perfect introduction to the true story of people who were hungry enough to eat the dead.

I had NO IDEA that the Donner party started in SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS!! Or that the Donners were just a small part of the wagon party. Honestly, so many facts were in this graphic novel that I never knew--so thanks for that, Nathan Hale!

To me, this is a must-purchase for all junior highs and middle schools. Now I want to check out the other books in the series--Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy, Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!, and Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales: Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood.

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School, #1)Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Sometimes I need fluff. And I do like fluff with assassins, boarding schools, and corsets, so this young adult novel hit the spot.

I was on the Alex committee that put Soulless on the list, so I have to admit that I'm a Carriger fan!

I do wish she hadn't dumbed down so much for her YA audience. Her parasol series wasn't all that "adult" so this book seemed like it had more stereotypes than her adult series.

However, it was a quick, enjoyable read. And I want my own Bumbersnoot!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

RevolutionRevolution by Deborah Wiles
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I'm on a literary downhill slide lately. While I love #weneeddiversebooks and the Civil Rights time period, I found this too disjointed to me and I never felt close to the characters. Yes, the design of the book is cool--all the photographs, quotes, songs, and primary documents make this the perfect read for a junior high social studies class. But not for me, a librarian and former history teacher. Give me The Rock and the River instead. I kept feeling like the book was selling "to inform" too hard.

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Friday, October 24, 2014

El Deafo by Cece Bell

El DeafoEl Deafo by Cece Bell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Cece is deaf after a disease at age 4, and she's trying to figure out how she is going to fit in with her classmates. With the help of El Deafo, the superhero she pretends to be in her daydreams, she figures out how to come to terms with wearing the device that helps her hear. Along the way, she makes friends, loses friends, and has her first crush on a neighbor boy. This is a sweet graphic novel that would team perfectly with Wonder.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

ThreatenedThreatened by Eliot Schrefer
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Okay, folks, I do not see what the big deal is about this novel. Yes, it's about chimps. Yes, it has a horrible cover. Yes, I feel like I'm being preached at, and not just about the chimps, but about poverty and orphans and society. Someone explain why the National Book Award nomination?

And that's only 80 pages in, so I'm stopping. I have a lot of other books on my To Read list that look better than this one.

Interested to see what some of my goodreads friends think about it. Am I far off in my judgment of this? I've read some reviews about how this is perfect for high school students and I am just not seeing it. It just doesn't seem genuine to me.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rainey Royal by Dylan Landis

Rainey RoyalRainey Royal by Dylan Landis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This beautifully written adult novel is dark, so don't be fooled by the pretty pink cover. Rainey is a young teenager who unfortunately is growing up in Greenwich Village in the 1970's in a dysfunctional house. Her parents are free thinkers and free lovers, and there are always students coming in and out of their house and their bedrooms. And that includes Rainey's. She's been abused for years by a live-in friend of her dad's and no one seems to care. Even a rape by a student is brushed aside by her dad because Rainey invited the boy into her room and talked to him on her bed. She's surrounded by sex, and it's confusing the hell out of her. It doesn't help that she's drop dead gorgeous and uses her sexuality to get anything she wants from so-called friends and teachers.

Poor, poor Rainey. Her world is so shallow and damaged.

I would have loved this book in high school--there is sex and flirting and cussing and adult situations throughout. It's like a Go Ask Alice book but about sex instead of drugs. It's a dark, dark world that Landis has created, but I had to keep reading to see what happened to Rainey. Great example of what I call New Adult--it's perfect for older teens and 20-somethings.

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Monday, October 20, 2014

Those Who Wish Me Dead by Michael Koryta

If you're in need of a fast-paced mystery thriller, this one is for you.  Jace is just a kid swimming in a pit lake when he sees something he shouldn't have.  Now he's a witness in a murder trial, and people want him dead.  Instead of the typical witness protection program, he's placed into a survival camp for troubled kids in the Rockies.  He likes learning how to survive in the wilderness and it comes in handy when the bad people come after him.  Thanks to the help of a former wildfire fighter struggling with her own demons, Jace is able to confront the people after him and a forest blaze.

Honestly, there were some plot holes and coincidences that I just couldn't forget while reading this one.  I loved the characterization of the Jace though--the elements of a great novel are here, but the coincidences were too much for me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Did you love The Hunger Games but wish it were more violent? Then this adult dystopia is for you!

Darrow is a Red, a group of people who work hard mining in order to prepare Mars for human civilization.  He started at age 13, like everyone else, and he's worked his way up to helldiver--he's brave, strong, and sometimes a little crazy with the drill he runs.

After his young wife is murdered, Darrow learns that Mars is already populated by scores of higher castes who want to keep the Reds in the dark.  Darrow wants to make the Golds suffer for taking his Eo from him, and he is reborn with the help of some scientists and sculptors.  In disguise as a Gold, Darrow must score high in the tests to determine his capabilities.  Remember the tests in Divergent? And the fights between districts in The Hunger Games? And the government who rules everything in The Maze Runner? And the houses in Percy Jackson and the Olympians?  And the bodies that are created in Pure? All that is here.  So I felt like I was reading a mishmash of other dark science fiction books thrown together in short sentences, but it worked.  There were times when Darrow's mind worked faster than mine and I was surprised with the plot twists.  I'm adding Book Two to my To Read list--Golden Son is supposed to be out on January 15, 2015.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

In this collection of graphic stories, the artwork is exquisite. And creepy! Five short stories are told, surrounded by an introduction and a conclusion that are just as haunting. Many of the stories are old--taking place in the past, as visible by the character's clothing.  In "The Nesting Place," it looks like young Mabel might have polio--she wears leg braces and has a walking stick. Her story was my favorite--she met her nightmare and conquered it.

Add this to your Halloween displays for creepy stories--it will fly off the shelf!

My Name is Resolute by Nancy E. Turner

I do love historical fiction, so I went into this huge beast with an open mind.  And it was easy to keep reading. It's an epic that follows that title character from childhood to death.

Resolute isn't a young girl you want to like--she's a rich, snobby girl with slaves on a Jamaica plantation.  But her home is attacked by pirates and she is taken with her sister to be sold into slavery.  Her childhood is horrible--she's a slave, beaten, and eventually sold to Canadian Catholics where she learns to spin and weave.  Her trade saves her and gives her a purpose.  Eventually she crawls out of the ashes and marries, has many children, and becomes a supporter of the American Revolution. Her name fits her well.

There were a few instances of choppy transitions and plot gaps that were summed up in a sentence or two, but overall, her story is a smooth read. I'm sure Turner's research was extensive--Resolute comes across many famous people in her life--Revere, Washington, Margaret Gage, etc. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Blood of My Blood by Barry Lyga. #3 in the I Hunt Killers Series

Barry Lyga freaking rocks. I loved I Hunt Killers and Game and he takes the third book in the series and hits it out of the park! I can't remember the last time I read a trilogy where all the books were awesome?

Jasper is in trouble. His dad's alive and no one is capable of hunting the serial killer down except for Jasper.  And so he does. Using every piece of knowledge that his dad taught him, he crosses state lines and manipulates people and comes dangerously close to being like his father.  Is Jasper a killer, too? Will he be able to kill his father when they finally meet? What if he has to choose between his father or his best friend or girlfriend? Oh, the tangled web of nature vs. nurture.....

Non-stop action. Violence. Gore. Dead bodies. Torture. It's all here.  And it's awesome.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Orphans of Race Point by Patry Francis

This was a bit too dramatic to me--I felt like I was reading a soap opera and I didn't know that was I had signed on for when I checked this book from my library.

The story spans generations--we first meet Hallie, a doctor's only daughter, as she becomes involved in the life of Gus, a friend who loses his parents when his dad kills his mom.  Over the years, their relationship evolves, and (no spoilers here), things REALLY happen.  Lots of sweet side characters in this and it would make a great Lifetime movie!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Fever by Megan Aboott

Modern Crucible tale here.  Deenie Nash is a normal high school girl--boys, gossip, and mean girls are on her mind a lot.  But when her best friend has a seizure in school and foams at the mouth, all hell breaks loose.  Lise doesn't get out of the hospital, and when another close friend has similar symptoms, the entire town freaks out.  Is it the HPV vaccine that the girls just received? Is it the nasty dead lake outside of town that no one is supposed to swim in?

Deenie's brother Eli and her teacher father are dealing with their own problems, too.  Through it all, the reader is guessing the cause of the hysteria.  Let's just say that I had my suspicions, but I was still surprised!

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

Sometimes there are books that show the bad side of people.  This is one of those. Next time I drive through the boondocks of Missouri, I will be very, very careful!

Deep in the Ozark Mountains, Lucy is worried about the her kinda friend Cheri. Cheri is mentally disabled, and Lucy cared more about her than most.  She gave her old toys, helped her at school, and talked to her when other kids didn't.  After being missing for a year, Cheri's body is found--dismembered.  The police are basically nonexistent in this area--everyone is crooked, taking bribes, and protecting family and friends.  Lucy investigates on her own, but finds out that her family isn't exactly what it seems.  Her own mother died years ago after Lucy's birth, and it turns out that her mother's disappearance is connected to Cheri's. Secrets are everywhere.  And people can be ugly.

Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics, edited by Chris Duffy

High school teachers, use this book! I would have loved to use this when I taught history and English.  I went through a stage in my 20s when I read a lot of the World War I poets--Sassoon and Brooke mostly.  But, whoa, this version rocks. So easy to incorporate into the classroom.

In the introduction, Duffy notes that many Americans don't know much about World War I, and I agree.  Trench warfare was horrible and deadly--shell shock was common, and soldiers thought their commanders were idiots for fighting for months to gain 10 feet of ground.

More than ten authors are highlighted here, from all class levels.  Soldier songs are used, too, and some are downright hilarious.  I love how so many artists are used and it's fascinating to study how the artist chose to represent the words. So many styles of drawing, but they are all appropriate. 

Sad, heartbreaking, and a must-read. War sucks. My favorites were "The Coward" by Rudyard Kipling adapted by Stephen R.  Bissette and "The Next War" by Osbert Sitwell adapted by Simon Gane.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Kill My Mother: a Graphic Novel by Jules Feiffer

So you guys know that I don't read too many graphic novels.  When I do, they are award winners or something that a friend recommends strongly. My community college library purchased this adult graphic novel based on a review somewhere, but it hasn't been checked out yet. It's been on display, too. 

The problem? I don't see the teen appeal other than the title. The homage to noir threw me off.  I've read a few pulp detective novels, but I was just confused on this one.  Feiffer is a great artist--he's won all sorts of awards, but I really couldn't tell the characters apart and so I was lost.  The word bubbles are everywhere and my scatterbrain had a hard time following the action.  And there was plenty of action! Totally unbelievable to me, though, especially the war scenes. These characters aren't nice and don't care.  And that meant that I didn't care either.  There are some adult scenes with penises and boobs.  I loved the crossdressing twist, but didn't think that Elsie's character rang true. This was just not my thing.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone by Adele Griffin

Love, love, love!

Addison Stone is a young artist who makes it big--she's the talk of New York City, dating the high society darlings, and her artwork sells for thousands. But, underneath it all, she's suffering from mental illness. The first page begins with a copy of her obituary.  Was she murdered? Did she commit suicide? Was her fall from the bridge an accident?

Told in snippets of interviews, the book seems oh so real.  The book is a piece of art--photographs of a striking Addison with her friends, copies of emails, and her paintings and drawings.  This book is getting some Printz attention, I'm sure, for voice and design.  It's unique and I loved it.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Aww, man, this one got me all emotional. Basketball book written in verse? Awesome! Quick read told from the point of view of Josh--a basketball star.  His identical twin brother is good, too, and when Jordan starts dating the new girl in school, Josh loses his best friend to a girl.  Things don't go well.  Josh and Jordan's father was a basketball phenom in Europe, too, but his guidance has only helped the boys.  It was a pleasure to read a novel with two caring parents--that doesn't happen much in YA lit.

My favorite?

Basketball Rule #4

If you miss
enough of life's
free throws
you will pay
in the end.

Monday, September 15, 2014

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

This graphic novel is a coming of age story about Rose and her annual summer trip to a cottage.  She's not having a good time--her parents won't stop fighting, and her dad even leaves to "work in the city" for awhile.  While on vacation, Rose's best friend is a younger girl named Windy, and the two of them rent horror movies and spy on the older kids around the area.  There's drama there, too, with cool slacker boys and dramatic teen girls--Rose is the watcher and misunderstands quite a bit.  Windy, having grown up with a hippie mom, tries to set Rose straight with some anti-slut discussion, but Rose doesn't get it.

I enjoyed this little read, but there wasn't any earth shattering moments for me.  The art is beautiful--love the purple and occasional full page spreads.  But, hey, it's middle school, and not much happens to middle schoolers in a summer.

Fair warning--there are plenty of cuss words here, and talk about boobs and sex and questioning. Nothing I wouldn't let my junior high kid read though, although there are parts I'd want to discuss with her.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Reviewed from ARC received from the publisher.

I can't say that I'm a huge Woodson fan.  I loved the audiobook production of Peace, Locomotion, but wasn't thrilled with Hush. I thought Each Kindness was beautiful, but too heavy handed for children, although I'm sure some students need to have books like that read to them to stop bullying!

But, whoa, this one will win some awards.  You know it's coming up at the Newbery table discussion this year, so it will be interesting to see if it wins.  Woodson's memoir is told in verse and she was a sweet, wonderful way with words. After reading this, you'll understand how she grew to know that words are her gift. Lots of passages to highlight in this one and refer back to!

I don't work with children or tweens so I have a question--is this kind of book popular with them? Will this fulfill the requirement of a teacher who requires a biography or autobiography to be read? If so, then the novel in verse will be a hit. But I just can't picture my daughter enjoying the beautiful rhythm and carefully chosen adjectives. It seems to be more for adults and young adults, which makes me wonder if the Printz committee is taking a look? Guess we'll find out in January at the awards ceremony!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

This is book #3 in the Grisha trilogy (see Shadow and Bone and Siege and Storm) and it's been on my to-read list for ages! So glad I made time to read it.

Alina and Mal are still trying to save their world.  Alina is a powerful Sun Summoner and now treated like a saint, but the two are searching for a firebird to make her powerful enough to defeat the Darkling.  They have a great group of faithful and funny friends to help them on their journey, and the witty dialogue is a good addition to the book.  The constant action makes this a swift and easy read, and the ending was satisfying to me.  Can't wait to see what she writes next!

Dragonfly in Amber

Well, this wasn't as good as the first book, but I know I'll keep reading the series.  I can't help but picture the actors from the Starz series as I read now! There were a little too much politicking in this for me, so I'm hoping that calms down a bit in book #3. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Stormbird by Conn Iggulden

So I just finished this author's Genghis series (that I loved!), so I figured I'd give his new series a chance. 

Told from multiple points-of-view, this historical fiction tries to clear the muddy waters that are England and France international relations.  I have to admit that I should know this stuff from my English History class, but it's so darn complicated that not much of this sounded familiar to me. Then, after reading the end, I found out what was historical and what was made up, and I was thankful that the made up parts weren't real! Whew!

I have to admit that I liked the parts from Queen Margaret's point-of-view most--I liked her. I didn't love this as much as the first book of Genghis, and I think it's because it's difficult to throw so much known history together into a novel. It'sswimming in characters, and not many of them are fleshed out.